With the recent Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revised forex policy excluding Maize from the list of commodities eligible to obtain FX from the CBN. Wandieville put out a series of webinars involving relevant stakeholders to discuss the new policy.
The first day of the webinar was on Wednesday August 26, 2020 focused on “Nigeria’s Ban on Maize Importation: Sustaining Productivity, Backward Integration and the way forward” with stakeholders from different segments of the value chain.
The panelists for the session were Mr. Elenwor Ihua-FCCA FCA, Deputy Director Development Finance at Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/ Team Lead of the CBN Maize Initiative; Mr. Folarin Okelola, Technical Advisor to the Director General of the National Agriculture Seed Council (NASC) representing Dr. Philip Olusegun Ojo, DG, NASC; Mr. Olumide Ibikunle, Commercial Lead, Corteva Agriscience Seeds, West & Central Africa; Dr. Loretta Balogun, CEO, LoryB & DP Ventures Limited; Mr. Ayodeji Balogun, CEO AFEX Commodities Exchange, Mr. Akinyinka Akintunde, Vice President, Financial Market, AFEX Commodities Exchange; Dr. Bello Abubakar, National President, Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) and Wandie Kazeem, CEO Wandieville Media, the moderator of the discussion
They discussed the new maize policy, seed production, opportunities and the way forward. Mr. Elenwor Ihua, Deputy Director Development Finance at Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Team Lead of the CBN Maize Initiative clearly stated that the intention of the policy is to ensure that smallholder farmers are productive and able to get value for their labour. He further explained that Nigeria has the capacity to meet the local demand for maize and the policy was more of a commitment to ensure that the country harnesses it’s capacity to supply the required quantity of maize, he noted “We felt Nigeria has the capacity to meet the demand; the smallholder farmers were having the rough end of the stick…we had to reduce use of scarce foreign exchange to import what we can produce. We need to look at a backward integration strategy on how we can produce maize in-house”.
Okelola, Technical Advisor to the Director General of the National Agriculture Seed Council (NASC), the basis for success in the intervention is to deploy quality seeds, improved technology, hybridization and parental materials. He said that the decision of the CBN is well intended but he suggested that authorization on the importation of parental materials would be pivotal to the success of the intervention pending when a Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Law is passed. He solicited the support of stakeholders which include the CBN, PAN, MAAN, etc. to help pass the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Law to ensure that certified seeds are supplied to farmers, in his words…”we need to have a common portal for agencies that deal with seed importation”. Mr. Olumide Ibikunle, Commercial Lead, Corteva Agriscience Seed Department, West & Central Africa, emphasized that despite the available vast land for cultivation, gaps in the system have to be identified and addressed promptly. According to him, the importation of parent seeds have to be authorized for a short period of time to build a more resilient structure to achieve the intended success of the intervention, he noted, “…we need to still bring in the stakeholders and come together to find the gap…we have land but we don’t have the genetics, the seed we produce is just a third of what we need”. He further explained that an enabling environment has to be created for smallholder farmers to get the reward of their labour and this includes the development of appropriate infrastructure such as good roads for transportation of maize produce from the farm to processing companies. Dr. Loretta Balogun, CEO, LoryB & DP Ventures Limited, stated that the policy is commendable but ill-timed with the current trends militating against food security such as the COVID-19 pandemic and unpredictable weather conditions. She suggested that the intervention should be properly phased, planned and worked on to achieve the intended goal. She noted, “The policy compounded the problem and made prices go off the roof completely… stopping something in the middle of an already difficult year with the COVID-19 pandemic, unpredictable weather patterns and already high price as at 13th July, 2020 when the policy was announced makes everything difficult”.
Mr. Akinyinka Akintunde, Vice President, Financial Market, AFEX Commodities Exchange commended the intervention of the CBN as it benefits the country from a macroeconomic stand point and it ensures capacity development of the smallholder farmers. He noted, the “CBN has provided a framework for all the value chain to be taken care of right from the input phase, providing access to finance for smallholder farmers via the initiatives that have been put in place… If we don’t have this intervention in place in a timely manner, there’s no way we can lay the foundation for increased production on the smallholder farmers’ part”. According to Mr. Ayodeji Balogun, CEO AFEX Commodities Exchange, the sector has potentials that can be harnessed in the next few years, he noted “It is the first time I have seen a double sided intervention in the value chain…when the CBN as well as other regulators are saying…let us have a double sided intervention, supporting the supply and demand side simultaneously with access to credit, to high variety, access to the agronomy, building an organized market for the sector…” He said this is the way to ensure food security in the country. Ms. Wandie Kazeem, CEO Wandieville Media emphasized that this is an opportunity for investors to put in resources to address issues regarding post-harvest losses and other challenges in various segments along the value chain to make the intervention a success.
The policy benefits the smallholder farmer as explained by Dr. Bello Abubakar, President, Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) who further informed attendees on some farmers’ resolution to switch from the production of other crops to maize. According to him the policy will lead to the creation of job opportunities in all segments across the value chain, in his words…”farmers are well encouraged to go back and farm maize…also there is an increase in the rate at which people are engaged in terms of job opportunities…” He further addressed players in the processing and poultry industry by emphasizing that the increase in price will prevail only in the short run and all stakeholders should work together to achieve the goal of the intervention.